Ball State Men’s Volleyball (2-0) opened the 2022 season with back-to-back sweeps and against Tusculum University (0-2) Jan. 15, service became key.
Led by graduate student setter Quinn Isaacson and senior middle blocker Felix Egharevba at the service line, the Cardinals had 14 service aces in the match compared to the Pioneer’s zero, as Ball State won by scores of 25-15, 25-7 and 25-15.
“We take pride in our practice for serving and for me, serving has been my strong suit so I wanted to make sure that it was my strong suit this year,” Egharevba said.
Isaacson led the Cardinals in assists and service aces with 25 and five respectively, while senior outside attacker Kaleb Jenness and sophomore opposite hitter Dyer Ball each smashed seven kills.
“We're excited,” Isaacson said. “We're about to ramp up a lot of our competition, but sports are momentum and the hottest team is going to win. We're just trying to play our best volleyball [to] get to that [so] we're ready to go in the conference tournament in May.”
A second consecutive match win and a second consecutive sweep for Ball State to open the season, which head coach Donan Cruz said will help the Cardinals get into the groove after rotating the lineup heavily against Maryville Jan. 13.
“Right now, we're about discipline and we're trying to win,” Cruz said. “I don't think we're in a position to think that we can just keep moving things around and not having tensions with our volleyball. I think the guys are locked in on the idea that no matter who the opponent is we're going to give our best shot.”
Both of the Cardinals’ season-opening wins came against historically young opponents, as Maryville is playing its inaugural season of men’s volleyball and Tusculum is only in its third year. However, Ball State's opponents' inexperience is not something Cruz believes affects the Cardinals.
“Really it was more about us wanting to put our guys in front of good competition,” Cruz said. “I think those teams do some things well and I think there are moments where they had pushed us and made us challenged, but our guys just did a good job of sustaining first ball contact and I think we made it pretty tough for them to do good things on their side of the net.”
Isaacson’s serving performance was capped off by three consecutive aces to start the second set as the setter pointed to a boy in the crowd after the third ace.
“I'm one of the varsity coaches at Burris [and] one of the assistant coaches’ son always comes to our games and he said he needed some aces because they throw out T-shirts when we get an ace,” Isaacson said. “He told me right before that first set ‘I need some more aces so they throw a shirt out,’ I got three and I gave him a point like, ‘Hey, is that enough for you?”
The Cardinals return to Worthen Arena for their next match against George Mason (1-0) Jan. 21 at 7 p.m.